Hertfordshire County Council’s trading standards team has issued a tip for each of the 12 days of Christmas to follow when buying electrical goods online.

It follows an operation to test the safety of Christmas lights. While 19 sets bought from discount stores and retailers passed, three purchased from an online auction site failed and presented a serious electric shock risk.

Trading standards officers are now investigating the failures and working with the sellers, who had registered addresses in Stevenage and Welwyn, to recall the unsafe items.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “I would urge people buying online to take note of these useful tips. They could not only save you a lot of hassle, they could even save your life.”

Here are the 12 tips of Christmas for a safe online purchase:
1. Where possible buy from known reputable retailers and their websites.
2. Make sure the seller is displaying their full contact details. Be wary of PO Box addresses.
3. Compare the price of the item to those sold at high street stores. If the price is significantly lower this may indicate that the item is counterfeit or substandard
4. Review the seller’s feedback and use search engines to check for adverse reviews about the website and seller.
5. Check the terms of the seller’s guarantees and returns policy before purchase.
6. Keep records of your online purchases.
7. For purchases over £100 consider using your credit card, as section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act holds both the retailer and credit card company liable for problems with the sale, such as the supply of faulty goods.
8. Check the photographs and descriptions of the products and make sure it is supplied a UK approved 3 pin plug.
9. Upon receipt, check the condition of the product before use. If you purchase a second hand electrical item fully inspect it for frayed wires, loose cables etc… before use.
10. If the product is new the packaging or product should have a CE mark on it
11. Check to see that the product comes with instructions
12. Remember that the Sale of Goods Act 1979 provides consumers rights when purchasing from a trader. These rights do not extend to consumer to consumer transactions
If you are unsure about a product you have purchased and want further advice, please contact the consumer helpline on 03454 040506.

For more safety tips visit www.hertsdirect.org/services/commsafe/commprotect/hfrs/firenews/fire/frhome4s/fsresource/christmas